I'm taking a brief blogging break for a week, but will be back before you know it. Have a good week and be nice to each other :-)
Such a good point made by Instagram Co-Founder Kevin Systrom in this short video (below), about how often it's not generating solutions to problems which is the hard part, but finding the right problem to solve. And as Ed Cotton says, planners have some highly relevant craft skills in this critical area. Seems like entrepreneurs and planners have a number of things in common these days. Not least, to paraphrase Dan Greenberg, the need to love the problem your working on, but not get married to whatever the first solution appears to be.
I've been doing a bit of teaching to a Masters class in Digital Marketing recently. Some of the work that has been originated by the class around digital business models has been something of an eye opener to me. Not so much for the ideas (excellent in quality though many of them were), but for the approach that the students took. An approach that was properly unconstrained by what you might call 'traditional' thinking. The kind of thinking that kills disruptive ideas because they are, well, disruptive, and don't naturally fit within the confines of the current ways of doing stuff. It seemed to be a perfectly natural thing for those students to challenge some pretty fundamental assumptions.
The interesting thing is that this is invariably the place we come from. When we come into the world and start to learn how to talk we ask a lot of questions that begin with why? When we start in the big wide world of work we often question (maybe not always in public) why things are done as they are.
As reported in this account of Eric Schmidt's keynote lecture at the Google Zeitgeist event the other day, Google make a point of asking bright sparks fresh out of college for their opinion on how they should tackle some of the trickier challenges that Google faces, because they see things from a fresh perspective. Innovation comes from people questioning the dominant way of thinking and status quo.
Sadly in most organisations, the opposite happens. Induction processes focus on 'teaching' the ways things are done within the organisation. Rewards focus on how well candidates fit within those parameters. Challenges to the status quo are not listened to because that person has not been in the business long enough to 'understand' why things are as they are. The irony is that in doing this they are confining a large part of the value that those people can bring to the company.
In that amazing Austin Kleon post (How To Steal Like An Artist) that got shortlisted for Post Of The Month back in March, he references this Rainn Wilson (who apparently played Dwight in the US version of The Office) quote that drove him nuts because it felt like a license for many people to put off making things: “If you don’t know who you are or what you’re about or what you believe in it’s really pretty impossible to be creative”. Instead in his experience, he says, it's in the act of making things that we figure out who we are.
Similarly I think, it is in the act of challenging themselves and creating new ways of creating, producing and doing that organisations really find out who they are. And a good place to start with that is by paying attention to the thinking of those that are new to your business, and the bright young things in your company. The point is that as an organisation, you're not going to find out what's really possible until you challenge some of the hardwired assumptions in your business. In other words, you don't know who you are until you know what you can do, and you don't know what you can do until you cut the crap and start doing it.
Every now and then you see an idea that makes you take a sharp intake of breath. Wahwah.fm is an app (currently in beta but soon to be more widely available) that enables you to listen to your music but also broadcast it at the same time, so other wahwah users can tune in live and listen to the same music you're listening to ("It's like running your own mobile music station").
So people can connect up, post messages, bookmark stations, and use sound to describe what they're upto in a way that is reminiscent for me of what Instagram does with photography. There's the music discovery part of this of-course, but I think it's the combination with location that is most interesting. Creating playlists that can be found by your location. Shared audio experiences. Soundtracks for locations. Walking through a city and discovering it through its music. A totally different way to 'navigate the musical abundance'.
They've started by integrating with the Soundcloud API, but it's a very scalable idea with some commercial potential (brands+people+location+music = interesting) that's already won a bunch of awards including, just now, the elevator start-up prize at this years NEXT conference in Berlin. I've posted a short (and rather understated) NEXT interview with the founder Philipp Eibach, below. It's a rather cool idea.
I've been mildly obsessing lately about applying predictive capabilities to content delivery through data, and what that might mean for media consumption and content producers of all kinds. So I decided to write a piece for Mediatel about it.
The announcement last week that Google is making its Prediction API generally available is potentially transformational, essentially meaning that it's now easier than ever for anyone to create apps with predictive capabilities supported by best-in-class technology. Ford have already partnered with Google to make cars that can use the API to learn from our behaviour and optimise for predicted scenarios. But for media owners and content producers, using such pattern-matching and machine learning capabilities to optimise user experience and power content recommendation seems like a no brainer.
My point in the piece though is that whilst there is good reason for content producers to get excited about the potential behind making content delivery services more intelligent (as Clay Shirky famously put it, it's not information overload, it's filter failure), we should not forget the power behind great curation, discovery and serendipity. There's nothing quite like just clicking around the internet and ending up at something that just blows you away. I guess that's what StumbleUpon (one of the most significant drivers of traffic on the web) is all about.
A few hours after submitting the piece I serendipitously (see what I did there) happened across Brainpicker's review of Eli Pariser's new book The Filter Bubble, a "compelling deep-dive into the invisible algorithmic editing on the web", describing the drawbacks and limitations of our personal universe of information ("unique and constructed just for you by the array of personalized filters that now power the web").
I'm surprised if I'm honest that, given it's potential impact on how we discover and consume content, this subject is not discussed more. Anyways, here's a link to the piece. I hope you like it.